Finding Housing in Boston - DO NOT WAIT UNTIL YOU ARRIVE!

General Information

The rental market in Boston is unique, and probably different from your home country.  An experienced realtor in the Boston rental market has assisted the International Center in putting together the following information to assist you in creating the best possible experience for yourself while you transition to life in Boston.   Please read the following information carefully before making any housing decisions and certainly before you pay for anything related to housing.  Please do not arrive in Boston without first making housing arrangements.  We want you to enjoy your first days in your new hometown!

Before You Arrive in Boston - Find Short-Term Housing

As soon as your F-1 visa is approved, it is time to start making arrangements for your housing on your arrival in Boston.  Here are the steps to take.

  1. Decide on the type of place you would like to stay on arrival.  It is strongly recommended that you secure short-term housing rather than trying to secure your long-term housing before you arrive.  It is very difficult and risky to rent an apartment long-term without having actually seen it in person.   Most landlords will not rent to a tenant unless they have viewed the property.
  2. Some options for short-term housing include homestays, hostels, and short-term rentals. 
    • Homestay is a form of hospitality and lodging whereby visitors share a residence with a local of the area to which they are traveling.   Benefits are that the property is fully furnished and you would stay with someone familiar with the area who is interested in hosting visitors , many of whom particularly enjoy hosting international students.  You also would not be subject to a lease commitment, unlike other options, and utilities are included. Drawbacks include that you will have to abide by the rules of the household (i.e. evening curfew, doing chores) and you may not have as much privacy as you would like (i.e. you may have to share a room and/or bathroom).   You may or may not have use of a kitchen or some meals included.  Organizations we are familiar with include Global Immersions and Student Room Stay.  You can expect to pay $1200 to $1500 per month per student, or $300 to $375 per week for shorter stays.
    • Short-term rentals are rentals by the bedroom in a shared apartment.  Benefits include that you would have temporary lodging while you engage in your education and search for more permanent housing. You can become familiar with the area while meeting others who are doing the same and searching for future roommates.  You would also experience a little more privacy than in a homestay, and have use of a kitchen.  Drawbacks are that the unit may not be furnished, utilities are generally not included, and you may not feel the same level of support that you would in a homestay.  The short-term rental organization we are most familiar with is June Homes.  They are accustomed to working with international students.  You can expect to pay $900 - $1400 per month per student + utilities.
    • A hostel is a form of low-cost short-term shared sociable lodging where guests can rent a bed, usually a bunk bed in a dormitory, with shared use of a lounge and sometimes a kitchen.  Rooms can be mixed or single-sex and have private or shared bathrooms.   You can find information about hostels in Boston at Hostel World.  You can expect to pay from $500 to $800 per week.

After Arriving in Boston - Finding Permanent Housing

Boston is an expensive place to live, and it is important that you create a realistic budget of $1000-$3000 per month for housing..  Unfortunately, if you have been looking online at rental options, much of what you are seeing is not actually available, or not available at the price listed.  Even common sites like apartments.com and especially craigslist, contain numerous fraudulent listings.  The information on the next page will assist you to strategically search for and secure the more permanent housing you will live in during your educational career.

Avoiding Scams

A scammer is a criminal who commits fraud or participates in a dishonest scheme.   In 2021, there were 290 victims of rental and real estate fraud in Massachusetts who lost a total $8,944,041.  Don’t become a victim!  If something seems too good to be true, most likely it is. The following are examples of real estate rental scams: 

  • You are asked to wire money as a deposit or a rental payment in advance without physically seeing a property, then the money and the scammer disappear.
  • A listing appears at a very reasonable price, but is never actually available when you call to inquire.  This is a method to draw you in for a much more expensive unit.
  • You are asked for your bank account information or other personal information before seeing the unit and signing a legitimate lease.  This is an attempt to steal your money.
  • You are asked for rent or a security deposit before signing a lease.
  • Someone impersonates a landlord or realtor by duplicating legitimate listings and requests money before a potential tenant can see the apartment.

Rental Terms

  • Broker/Real Estate Agent:  A licensed professional who represents and assists prospective tenants in locating legitimate available rental properties and helps to negotiate rental terms to protect the interests of their clients.  A broker charges a fee for this service, often equal to one month’s rent.  While not true in every market in the United States, the use of brokers is often essential in the Boston area.
  • Rental Application:  An application on which a potential landlord will collect information from you in order to determine your fitness as a potential tenant.
  • Lease:  A contract between a tenant and landlord that gives a tenant the right to live in a property for a fixed period of time at a fixed price that can change (always upward) at the end of each lease period upon renewal.  A lease is a legally binding contract that guarantees the tenant the use of the property and guarantees the property owner payments for a specified period of time.  The contract will include the rules and regulations pertaining to the specific property (i.e. no smoking).
  • Eviction:  A legal maneuver to remove a tenant from a property for violation of the terms of the lease.

Find Your Apartment

Begin by googling student apartments in Boston.  Look at the listings on the different web sites.  If you find a listing you are interested in, follow the directions on the listing to inquire as to whether the unit is still available.  If it is, request an in-person showing to view the property as soon as possible.  If you view the property and would like to apply, the real estate agent or landlord will give you an application to complete and submit.  Gather all of your financial support documentation (Affidavit of Support, bank statements, etcetera) to submit with your application.  One challenge you will experience as an international student is that you may not have a social security number and thus no credit history in the United States.  Some landlords may not be willing to consider you as a tenant for this reason, so it is best to disclose your status during your inquiry.  If this process seems too overwhelming to do on your own, or is taking too much time,  you may want to consider finding a broker who can assist you in locating an appropriate apartment and acting on your behalf.   One broker we are familiar with is Kathy Mazzola who can be reached via e-mail at kathymazzolarealestate@gmail.com or phone at 508-400-1158.  She is familiar with the unique needs of international students and can be of assistance to you.  A standard broker fee would apply if you choose to engage her services.  There are also other brokers.  Many are listed in rental listings with their contact information.  When you find an apartment and sign a lease, move in!  Move-in costs generally are 1st month’s rent, a security deposit, and a broker fee, if applicable, so you will need to pay a substantial amount (up to 3X 1 month’s rent) to move in.  You can expect to pay at least $1000 to $1500 per bedroom, per student, per month, + the additional expense of utilities, assuming you have roommates.  Without roommates, you can expect to pay much more.   Please keep these price points in mind when budgeting for your time in Boston.